A Palestinian pedagogy of liberation

Palestinian resistance or a Palestinian pedagogy of liberation

The idea that children should be protected from the cruelty of this world is valid for those few that can do so by switching off the TV. Most parents across the globe have to find ways of bringing up children within an environment no child and no adult should ever live in. So do Palestinians.

The trauma for Palestinians is unavoidable. The trauma for Palestinians is unavoidable. 91% of children in Gaza reportedly suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or rather, they are not facing physiological stress that comes after a traumatic event has ended, they are living a transgenerational trauma that started in 1948 and continues to traumatize the society until today. That bombs falling, parents arrested in the dark of the night or children being arrested themselves, family and loved ones being killed, having their own home destroyed are events that are particularly traumatic on children goes without saying. 

Yet, Palestinians have developed forms of resilience even against these socio-cidal effects of Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism.

Palestinian parents are challenging the Israeli attempt to create a generation that is fearful and ready to live ‘peacefully’ under oppression. A friend explained: “I have to teach my children not to be afraid of the soldiers, their weapons and shooting from the moment they start understanding what is happening around them. Otherwise their life will be a continuous trauma. How could I pass with them every day a military checkpoint with soldiers screaming at us, if they were afraid of the soldiers and their guns? We try to make fun of them, look at the soldiers’ weaknesses and own fear.” 

The result are Palestinian children that have learned how to challenge Israeli soldiers and know that the struggle against oppression is part of life. 

Some of these children become icons, like 15 year-old Faris Odeh, who was captured by a photojournalist while throwing stones at a tank. Or Ahed Tamimi, who was imprisoned for slapping a soldier in the face. Others should be icons, like the children of as-Sfai school that continued their studies on the rubbles of their school after they defended it for hours against the Israeli military and even the tents that were brought in had been confiscated. There are thousands of Palestinian children in their homes, on their way to school, in the streets or in the fields that have learned not only to survive but to live under apartheid and occupation. 

They have learned from their parents and teach their parents. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian tells the story of Sumoud, the 12 year old sister of Nassim Abu Roumi, who was killed by the Israeli military and his body withheld, in order to highlight the existence and importance of the spirit of Palestinian children, uncontaminated by any attempt to colonize their minds. She quotes Sumoud asserting “I am younger than him, two years younger, but strong, stronger than those murderers, stronger than the refrigerators that are holding and freezing his body, and the walls and checkpoints that they use to prevent my parents from bringing him back home. Ana Sumud (I am steadfastness) and will be a lawyer.” Her pained but determined logic teaches everyone around that resistance is the only path forward for Palestinians. 

Palestinian children should not be faced with Israeli occupation and apartheid, they shouldn’t be heroes and they shouldn’t be celebrated as heroes or elevated as icons. Yet, what is important is that they are not only victims but agents and part of the sumud and struggle of th Palestinian people. Just as their parents are.

They go to school crossing checkpoints, study on the rubble of their homes or in the prison cells and build a new generation of Palestinians in struggle.